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Newport Aquarium’s new Freshwater Falls exhibit lets visitors see what lies below the surface

A new exhibit is now open to the public at Newport Aquarium.

Freshwater Falls lets guests take a peek at what lies below the rippling surface of cascading streams and waterfalls around the world

The exhibit includes several species never before seen at Newport Aquarium including a pair of eastern hellbenders, large aquatic salamanders who breathe through pores in their skin. The new exhibit is in dedication to the aquarium’s 20th anniversary this year.

Newport Aquarium Public Relations Manager Jennifer Tan can be seen through one of the exhibits at Freshwater Falls (photo by Mark Hansel).

Jennifer Tan, Public Relations Manager for Newport Aquarium said new exhibits and events will be added throughout the year to celebrate the milestone anniversary, which officially takes place in May.

“Freshwater Falls is really a nice new entrance to the Aquarium,” Tan said. “This is one of our original exhibit spaces, so we kind of revamped it. We widened the room, we knocked out a couple of walls, so now you have this beautiful open space – you hear the waterfalls when you come in, you hear the trickling water and it kind of gives you a peek of what lies beneath the waterfalls throughout the world.”

Kristen Guevara, a biologist with Newport Aquarium who helped design Freshwater Falls, said each new exhibit comes with the challenge of being able to balance what is needed to take care of the fish with what is going to look nice for the public.

“The hardest tank, I think, was probably the Cascade Tank, since you’re getting three tanks in one,” Guevara said. “The fact that they are flowing from one tank into the next, into the next, we have to tweak that flow just right, otherwise you’ll wind up with a tank at the bottom that’s overflowing due to gravity. The other thing we ran into is, with that cascading, we wanted to make sure we weren’t having all the fish in the bottom and then we don’t have any fish in the top.”

Freshwater Falls features dozens of species of plants and animals among 13 tanks. Highlights of the new exhibit include a cross section of a cascading stream and waterfall both bursting with aquatic life. A trip through a tunnel will give nature lovers a look beneath the breaking surface of a Kentucky waterfall at a habitat that often goes unseen.

Exhibits include:

Cascading Stream:

Cascading stream (provided)

See into a cross section of a cascading stream through the Congo. Discover animals like the West African lungfish, which walks on four fins and breathes air, and the elephantnose fish that finds food with an electric current in its long nose.

Waterfall Cross Section:
Peer into a cross section of a Central American waterfall, home to a diverse collection of cichlids. These brightly colored fish come in countless sizes and shapes and are known for their social structure and being very attentive parents.

Beneath the Falls:
Enter the first tunnel of the aquarium and experience what it’s like to be underwater beneath a Kentucky waterfall. See fish like bass, black crappie and perch as you’ve never seen them before amid the turbulent, bubbling waters.

Waterfall cross section (provided)

To learn more about Freshwater Falls, and to follow more announcements for Newport Aquarium’s 20th Anniversary, click here.

Freshwater Falls Animal Facts

Below is a sampling of the animals presented in Newport Aquarium’s new exhibit, Freshwater Falls

West African Lungfish (Never Before Seen at Newport Aquarium)

Found in backwater areas of rivers and lakes in Africa around the Congo.

Diet: Feeds on plants, mollusks, frogs and fish.

Did You Know? The West African Lungfish lives in areas with a dry season. To survive from one wet season to the next, it hibernates in a burrow surrounded by slime, which acts as a cocoon.

Eastern Hellbender (Never Before Seen at Newport Aquarium)

The Eastern Hellbender, which can be found in Northern Kentucky, is among the species now on display at Freshwater Falls at Newport aquarium.

Found locally in Kentucky, this species of salamander can be found throughout Appalachia and beyond and is listed as near-threatened.

Diet: Feeds on crayfish and worms.

Did you know: This type of salamander is aquatic and breathes through pores in its skin. It’s folding loose slimy skin has earned it the colorful nicknames “Lasagna Lizard” and “Snot Otter.”

Freshwater Pufferfish

Found in both fresh and brackish waters in the Congo River basin

Diet: Feeds on small fish, mollusks, and crustaceans.

Did You Know? These pufferfish can grow up to two feet long. Like all pufferfish, they have the ability to puff themselves with water or air when threatened.

Elephantnose (Never Before Seen at Newport Aquarium)

The Elephantnose is found in Muddy bottom areas of the Niger and Congo River basins

Found in Muddy bottom areas of the Niger and Congo River basins.

Diet: Feeds on worms and Insects.

Did You Know? The long snout is actually an extension of its mouth. This part is covered with electroreceptors used for finding food and navigation.


Found in slow flowing river and standing water.

Diet: Feeds on worms, crustaceans, and insects primarily at night.

Did You Know? Moves like a snake over the bottom and is able to breathe air in times of low oxygen in the water.

Beneath the falls (provided)

African Knifefish

Found in quiet waters with a lot of vegetation.

Diet: Feeds on worms, crustaceans, insects, and snails.

Did You Know? The african knifefish can produce a bark-like sound from their swim bladders.
Newport Aquarium has showcased thousands of animals from around the world in a million gallons of water since 1999.

Newport Aquarium is a Herschend Family Entertainment company and an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Newport Aquarium is open to the public 365 days a year and is located across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. For more information, click here.

NKyTribune staff and Newport Aquarium

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